The issue of similarity and the semiotics of doubling: around “The idiot” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Автор: Faustov Andrey A.

Журнал: Новый филологический вестник @slovorggu

Рубрика: Русская литература

Статья в выпуске: 1 (52), 2020 года.

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The article explores the way Dostoyevsky deals with the issue of similarity, which becomes highly problematic in his works (for example, in his novel The Idiot). True similarity or resemblance in Dostoyevsky’s novels is a fine balance between two false forms of similarity - the ‘photographic’, accidental identity, and the caricature - and as such, cannot help but be ‘hazy’. When projected on the axis of time, it gives one the idea that this true similarity is a very rare, if not unique, phenomenon. From the point of view of semiotic text organization, the ‘haziness’ of similarity is explained by the work of the logic of metonymy, which involves absence of stable boundaries between the referents and the signifiers that have a stable connection to them. In case of Dostoyevsky, the metonymic reorganization of the world results in narrative dispersion, when the sliding of signifiers is accompanied by the multiplication and divergence of meanings and references. As a result, the article reviews the widely spread idea that the relations between Dostoyevsky’s characters can be described as total doubling. If doubling is defined as characters with absolute bodily similarity, which they both confirm, then there is - unsurprisingly - only one pair like that in Dostoyevsky’s works - the two Golyadkins. What is normally deemed as doubling, should in fact be seen as characters linked together not in the plane of meaning, but by way of identical signifying (the article illustrates this with the characteristic of childishness and the way it works in The Idiot). It is proposed to call this type of relations “surjection”, where in the text the same important signifier is linked to more than one character.


Fyodor dostoyevsky, idiot, doubling, similarity, metonymy, dispersion, photography, childishness, surjection

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IDR: 149127423   |   DOI: 10.24411/2072-9316-2020-00006

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